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2012 Cadillac SRX: Catching up to the luxury CUVs

Posted by Bill Griffith  November 4, 2011 05:25 PM

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(All photos: Bill Griffith for The Boston Globe). Click photo for larger version.

Cadillac’s transformation has been intriguing to watch.

These days, General Motors is working to expand the Cadillac brand as a global marque of excellence while at the same time distancing it from the Buick line. The distinction, if you’re wondering, is to have Buick as a more entry-level luxury car with Cadillac on the high end of the luxury segment.

Meanwhile, Cadillac continues to work on appealing to a younger buyer, a process that got rolling with the introduction of the Escalade and escalated with the CTS sedans, coupes, and wagons.

It’s easy to make a case that the Cadillac CTS-V coupes racing (and winning) in the Pirelli World Challenge Series are more “stock” than the brands (Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, and Toyota) racing in NASCAR’s top Sprint Cup series. That may be a story for another day but it shows that Cadillac is succeeding in the performance arena.

When my son-in-law first saw today’s test car—a 2012 Cadillac SRX with all-wheel-drive—he had a common reaction. “THAT’s a Cadillac? It’s really nice looking.” And so it is as it competes strongly in a tough luxury segment with the likes of the Acura MDX, BMW X3 and X5, Lexus RX 350, Infiniti EX 35, and Volvo XC90.

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Our test SRX was an all-wheel-drive version in the “Performance Collection,” the next-to-highest trim line for this five-passenger crossover. That luxury comes at a price: $47,215 including destination and $48,610 with the optional ($1,395) dual screen DVD entertainment system.

For 2012, Cadillac made a significant change in the SRX, going with a single engine choice—a 3.6-liter direct injection V-6 that’s rated at 308 horsepower and 265 lb.-ft. of torque. Power goes to the wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

In previous years Cadillac offered a 3.0-liter V-6 that seemed a bit underpowered or an optional turbocharged 2.8-liter V-6 that I found to be an outstanding, albeit expensive, choice. Before those, the first SRX was entirely different, with a V-8 and rear-wheel-drive.

On the road the new engine proved more than adequate though you could sense it was moving a substantial vehicle. Indeed, the SRX weighs in at 4,442 pounds and is rated at 16 miles per gallon city and 23 mpg in highway driving. Our test miles were put on in rain, traffic and city-type driving, giving us a 16.8-mpg rating. On the plus side, the SRX runs on regular unleaded gas and is E85 compatible.

Drivers can opt to go into “Eco” mode at the touch of a button on the center console and enjoy a projected 1 mpg improvement thanks to changed engine and transmission computer management.

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With cold weather at hand, we appreciated the heated steering wheel, except that only the leather-wrapped bottom two-thirds of the wheel turn toasty warm. The wooden top third remains cool. On the road, the steering was well-balanced and the ride refined, even over my latest local stretch of overdue-to-be-repaved roadway.

Equally impressive was the oversized “ultraview” sunroof that opened over both the front and rear seats. A built-in wind baffle keeps the breeze from so much as ruffling rear-seat passengers’ hairdos.

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Daughter G, who drives an Acura MDX, liked the styling and interior of the SRX though she thought it “wasn’t quite as plush as the Acura.” I found the two pretty equal with the Caddy’s nav system much easier to use.

We used the five-passenger capacity by having a child seat in the right rear corner with adults riding in the rear center and left positions. Surprisingly, the rear passengers felt they had more leg room when sitting in the center position than against the window.

The instrument panel has a unique look with three circles. The middle one has a distinctive blue core surrounded by white backlighting, black numbers and a red needle. Atop the center stack the navigation screen rises out of the dash like something in a high-tech boardroom, or the Lady of the Lake rising to hand Excalibur to King Arthur. However, you have the option of having the screen retract, leaving a small slice of screen to give audio and climate information.

A couple of nice touches are the redundant door lock switches on both the door and center of the instrument panel and an adjustable switch that allows the rear tailgate to open to any of three heights.

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Once that tailgate is up, the SRX offers plenty of cargo space—one of the plusses for not trying to squeeze in a third row of seats. Instead owners find an adjustable cargo “fence” that runs on tracks and a large hidden storage area. Of course that space is where the spare tire normally would sit. Instead, there’s a tire inflation kit and a five-year/100,000-mile roadside assistance service as part of the comprehensive warranty package.



2012 Cadillac SRX AWD Performance Collection

THE BASICS
Price, base/as tested (with destination): $47,215 / $48,610.
Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 16 mpg city / 23 mpg highway.
Fuel economy, Globe observed: 16.8.
Drivetrain: 3.6-liter V-6, six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive.
Body: Five-passenger crossover SUV.

THE SPECIFICS
Horsepower: 308.
Torque: 265 lb.-ft.
Overall length: 190.3 in.
Wheelbase: 110.5 in.
Height: 65.7 in.
Width: 75.2 in.
Curb weight: 4,442 pounds.

THE GOOD: First-class styling, classy & feature-laden interior.

THE BAD: In a time when vehicles are getting lighter, the SRX remains a heavyweight.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Cadillac has refined the SRX into a must-drive luxury crossover.

ALSO CONSIDER: Acura MDX, BMW X3/X5, Infiniti EX, Lexus RX 350, Volvo XC90.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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